The Blessing of Creative Handwork

Imogen's baby quilt was made with immense love and many prayers for blessings on this sweet baby.

A baby quilt can be a perfect first creative project — babies aren’t at all picky, and an imperfect gift can be well loved and used without fear of spoiling an heirloom.

I just wanted to share a photo of the baby quilt I’ve been working on for our expected granddaughter, due in October.

My friend Belinda, who’s also my daughter-in-law’s mother, embroidered many of the squares (I did the Scottie, the bunnies, and part of the black sheep block, and she did the rest), and I designed and pieced the top using a wide selection of batik and hand-dyed fabrics in the chosen colors.

Next step is piecing the back (it’s not necessary to piece a quilt back, but I just like to do so, usually using larger pieces and more of a patchwork pattern. The last step will be machine quilting, which I’ve chosen over hand quilting for two reasons. First, machine quilting feels a bit sturdier than hand quilting, and I want to make something that’s usable, not fragile. Second, I want to finish this sometime before that baby has children of her own, and this will help. We can hardly wait to welcome the new little one.

Creative handwork in your homeschool

Homeschooling parents have a unique opportunity to pass along creative handcraft skills that their children can enjoy for many years. I remember sitting and doing embroidery, crochet, macrame, cross stitch, candlewicking, crewel, drawing, calligraphy, and other crafts each evening as we listened to Daddy read scripture. Some evenings, we also enjoyed listening to the CBS radio mystery theatre or music. It was a sweet, companionable time, with the emphasis on enjoying the process, not perfecting the product (a key to making early handwork projects enjoyable).

To this day, I love to keep my hands busy with a creative project while listening to something interesting. It’s a delight to turn raw fabric, yarn, thread, or paper and ink into something beautiful or useful. Helping your children learn to use their hands creatively can help develop imagination, creativity, and fine motor skills and will provide them with the means of giving unique and beautiful gifts to others, even on a very small budget.

Charlotte Mason advocated that children practice a variety of creative crafts, including dry brush watercolor, the art of paper sloyd (building things from paper — a lot more fun than it sounds), and various other types of handwork. This wasn’t to increase the list of things that must be done each day; rather, it was to help students develop hand-eye coordination, a creative eye, and fine motor skills among other things. Miss Mason understood that as created beings, we each have some capacity to create in small ways, whether through needlework, whittling, building, cooking or any other creative task, and it helps to begin when children are young.

Embroidery as an early creative skill

One craft that is portable and relatively simple is embroidery. A square of cotton fabric (10″ or so, or the end of an old tea towel), an embroidery needle and hoop, and a hank of two of embroidery thread is enough to get started, and there are many instructional videos on YouTube if that’s the way you prefer to learn.

Embroidery transfers are a particularly fun and easy way to get started with embroidery. Choose something you like and iron it on to the fabric of your choice. A tightly-woven linen or cotton broadcloth or batiste works well. Choose embroidery floss in colors that please you, and start stitching. For most designs, you’ll use at least three basic stitches: outline or stem stitch, lazy daisy, and French knots. These aren’t hard to master, and you’ll find instructions with your transfers or in any embroidery book.* It’s a lot of fun!

embroidery kit image

You can find beginner embroidery kids in your local craft store or the online behemoth (linked here — affiliate link, of course). You don’t really need a kit, but it can make things feel easier.

Note: For those of you who enjoy vintage transfers, I recommend Pattern Bee for wonderful selection and service. I particularly wanted this pattern because my grandmother used the same one to embroider a lamb on a receiving blanket for me many years ago. You can see the same lamb at the bottom right corner of the quilt.

*I just noticed that the owner of Pattern Bee has a new embroidery book coming out. It’s called Embroidery Craft: Stitching Through the Seasons, and it looks beautiful. You can see it at Turkey Feathers, Vicki’s blog. It just went on my wish list!


4 Responses

  1. AprilS says:

    One of my favorite things about creative handiwork is the fact that they often become treasured items later. I am a quilt fanatic and was given one made by my great,great grandmother for a wedding present. This is my special treasure. I love showing it to people and anyone who stays over gets to enjoy it because I know my great,great grandmother would come down from Heaven and kick my butt if she knew it wasn’t being used!

    I also have a piece of embroidery work that my mother made and it is framed and hung in a very special place.

    For me, these are not only thoughtful gifts, but they have a little piece of someone’s heart in them as they spent so long making it.

  2. kimmie says:

    Oh what a beautiful quilt. I love the fabrics you chose too. I wish I was better at embroidery…it isn’t something I am particularly good at, but I love how it looks.

    Keep those hands busy my friend, you do beautiful creations.

    mama to 8
    one homemade and 7 adopted

  3. Nadene says:

    What a beautiful heirloom piece! My girls all love keeping busy hands, creating lovely items. It is a wonderful hobby.

    • I hope that all of you will post photos of some of your projects. I think it inspires others– at least it inspires me!

      One thing I enjoy doing is using a pattern or design that one of my grandmothers has used. My great-grandmother made a beautiful Lone Star quilt in reds on white, and I’ve pieced one in the brights that I enjoy. It’s just another way to remember them with love.

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